This Startup Is Screening Kids’ Eyes With an App Instead of a $20,000 Device

(Bloomberg Businessweek) -- GoCheck Kids is the first iPhone app registered with the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to screen young children for correctable vision impairment with a simple photo. Among other things, it’s meant to reduce the risk of permanent vision loss among the 18 million American kids younger than 6; most medical practices can’t afford the industry-standard $20,000 screening devices used to diagnose rare eye diseases.

Innovator

David Huang
Age 54
Ophthalmology professor at Oregon Health and Science University and co-founder of Gobiquity Inc., a 20-employee startup in Nashville

Origin

Huang, who grew up nearsighted in rural Taiwan, got his ophthalmology Ph.D. from MIT and his medical degree from Harvard. He came up with the idea for GoCheck Kids in 2011 during a conversation with his mentor, eye-cancer specialist Lin Murphy. They partnered with ophthalmologist Hiroshi Ishikawa and developer Tommy Tam to create Gobiquity, incorporating in 2013.

Users

So far, 4,000 pediatricians in 43 states have used GoCheck to screen 900,000 kids, detecting about 50,000 at risk of vision impairment.

Funding

Gobiquity has raised $20 million from investors including Salesforce founder Marc Benioff.

How It Works

① A pediatrician uses Gobiquity’s app on her iPhone to photograph a child’s eyes, highlighted by the phone’s flashlight, from a distance of about 3½ feet. GoCheck software analyzes how light refracts off the patient’s eyes to identify risks for nearsightedness, farsightedness, or eye cancer or other diseases.

② If the software identifies a risk factor, a Gobiquity screening team confirms it and sends an alert to the child’s electronic health record, which notifies the pediatrician for a referral.

Next Steps

“They don’t replace pediatric ophthalmology, and they don’t diagnose disease, but it’s a piece of the puzzle,” says Barry Wasserman, a pediatric eye surgeon at Wills Eye Hospital in Philadelphia, who calls GoCheck a welcome addition to his field. “It’s so sensitive, it’s not going to miss too much.” Gobiquity says it hopes to screen 20 million children by 2020 and to introduce a product next year that’s calibrated to screen adults.

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Jeff Muskus at jmuskus@bloomberg.net

©2019 Bloomberg L.P.